Boston University’s Student Government is conducting an investigation into grade deflation and grading transparency at BU.
SG Director of Academic Affairs Aditya Jain has been leading the investigation and said student requests were the driving force behind his department’s decision to look into BU’s grading policy.
“It’s something that I, as a student at BU myself, have been involved with and have been hearing about for the two years that I’ve been here,” he said, “so I think that this is definitely a major issue at BU.”
SG Senate Chair Andrew Chiao said this undertaking marks the first time SG has investigated grade transparency. He said that listening to and finding solutions for student concerns is something SG has always tried to do.
“I think it’s important not just to listen to student concerns, but to respond to them and come back to them with answers,” Chiao said.
Because the issue of grades and grading processes is “tricky,” Jain said, he and his team have spent the majority of their time thus far in a research phase, which includes collecting grading data from BU and other colleges and speaking to students who say they’ve been affected by grade deflation.
“We’ve been trying to do a lot of research to make sure that we really understand the issue before we move forward,” Jain said.
Jain and his colleagues are reaching out to department heads at BU to learn their views on grade transparency as the next phase of the project, he said.
Although Jain does not have a concrete idea of what will come of the investigation, he said he has come up with potential solutions to the issue of grade transparency that he’d like to propose to the university. These include changing misconceptions about grade deflation and improving communication about grading between students and faculty, he said.
The last time BU addressed the issue of grade deflation was in 2006, Jain said, and he believes it is time to revisit the topic.
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about grading at BU,” Jain said. “… there’s really a lack of communication between the students and the administration. I think that, as the Student Government, this is something that we can really take a look at and be able to provide that bridge that hasn’t existed for almost 10 years now.”
Brad Fortunato, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he thinks he has “absolutely” experienced grade deflation over the course of his time at BU.
“From my experience, the intro classes are extremely difficult compared to other courses around the area,” Fortunato, a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) major, said. “They’re used as a weed-out class for students.”
‘Weed-out’ classes, Fortunato explained, are difficult courses that he thinks discourage students who might not be as interested in the subject early on. Fortunato’s friends at neighboring universities, he said, have had much easier experiences with introductory classes.
BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email that grade deflation is not an issue at BU.
“It is a longstanding myth about grade deflation at BU,” he wrote, “when in fact it is merely a consistent and serious approach to grading.”
CAS junior Gracie Simmons said she thinks grade deflation is more common in STEM courses — which she does not take and does not affect her — but she has heard many people complain about it
“I think it’s definitely talked about a lot,” Simmons said, “it’s common conversation.”
Jamie Weber, a junior in the School of Hospitality Administration, said that although she hasn’t experienced grade deflation personally, she has heard about other students having issues with it.
“I think if they’re looking into it, and they’re looking for a solution, then it would be helpful,” she said. “I hear it talked about a lot. People wrote papers on it in my classes. I feel like that’s definitely a problem that should be fixed.”